Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

Jury Scam in Orange County

Apparently there is a new scam going around in Orange County. Imposters are calling and claiming that they are from the Orange County Superior Court. They are claiming that you will be facing prosecution for missing jury duty and attempt to obtain your social security number. Read here for more details

The bottom line is, never ever under any circumstances give out any of your personal information such as social security number, birth date etc. to anyone who is calling you that you do not recognize. No reputable company is going to call you out of the blue to ask you for this information. Scammers will stop at nothing to get this valuable information from you so be vigilent in protecting it.

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Informed Delivery by the United States Postal Service

I just found out about a very useful service that the United States Postal Service offers and one that Sandy has been using for a while. It is called Informed Delivery and it sends you a daily email with an image of the mail you will be receiving each day. It is completely free and easy to sign up. I went to USPS.com, logged into my existing account (If you do not already have an account you will need to create one) and under user preferences you can opt into the service. They do verify your identity so no one else can sign up to see your mail. They ask specific questions about you, where you have previously lived etc. This is a great way to know if anything ever goes missing from your mailbox. They even have a link in your daily email to report a piece of missing mail.

Here's an example of my dashboard on the site.

USPS Informed Delivery Dashboard

Signing up for this service is another way to stay one step ahead of identity theft that is so prevalant right now.

Have a great Holiday Weekend!

Melani

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Gap Insurance

We've come to the realization that not everyone knows what gap insurance is and why it may be a good idea to get it when purchasing a brand new car. Gap insurance is an insurance policy you buy to cover the amount your insurance company will pay out vs. the amount you owe on your car loan, in the case of an accident where your car is totaled. This is an important coverage to consider especially if you are purchasing a brand new car. Car values drop drastically once you drive the vehicle off the lot. By not purchasing the gap insurance you run the risk of owing a lot more than what the car is worth after an insurance payout. That means you would either have to pay off the loan balance yourself or roll it into another vehicle loan which would most likely leave you upside down. Definitely not a good place to be in. Here is an article, written by Joshua Caucutt from Money Crashers, that goes into further detail about gap insurance, how to get it and helps you decide if you need it.

https://www.moneycrashers.com/gap-insurance-cars-worth-it/

Have a great weekend!

Melani

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Public Wi-Fi: Don't Do It

Here is a great article with lots of information on the dangers of using public wi-fi. There are some interesting facts that I never even thought of. For example, hackers are not only looking for your personal identifying information but they also are looking at your browsing history to be able to target you in phishing scams based on your interests. These phishing scams come in the form of robocalls, free apps and targeted ads. As always we want you to take every precaution to safeguard yourself from identity theft. This article is definitely worth the read.

https://lifelockunlocked.com/tips/lowdown-public-wi-fi/?cid=em_eNews_vol5_onboardingdbm_readmore_-_

Happy Mother's Day weekend to you all!

Samantha

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Free Document Back Up

Even though tax season is is behind us you may still be going through important documents or filing them away. We thought now was a good time to let you know that we offer free document back up for our clients. We will take your important documents, scan them, keep them in your electronic client file here and also save them to a password protected flash drive for you to keep. We're always sending out reminders of the importance of having your documents in a safe place and backed up in case of a fire or other emergency and now it's easier than ever to get it done with this free service.

Examples of items you may want to have scanned are; birth certificates, medical records, insurance policies, bank and investment account information, identification cards etc.

Having this USB drive with you while traveling could be especially useful if there is an emergency while you're away from home.

If you would like to take advantage of this offer, feel free to give me a call to set up a time to drop your documents off.

Have a great weekend!

Melani

 

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Facebook Privacy Update

There's been a lot of recent reports on how much information Facebook really has on you and it is scary. When is the last time you looked to see how many of your apps are connected to your Facebook profile? Even if youre not using the app anymore, once you grant them permission to your Facebook profile they will continue to collect your data, including your friends list, pictures, browsing history etc, until you revoke their access.

We found a really good article on CNBC that gives you a step-by-step guide on how to check your privacy settings, see who has access to your information and how to remove them. Follow the link below to check it out.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/20/how-to-see-which-facebook-apps-have-access-to-your-data.html

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Smartphone Security

Most of us live on our smartphones. Our whole lives are connected to them, from social media to online banking and more, so keeping them secure is more important than ever. I found a great article I wanted to share with you that has some tips on keeping your smartphone safe.

https://socialnomics.net/2017/05/10/7-best-practices-for-ensuring-smartphone-security/

I hope you find these tips useful!

Samantha

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Credit Freeze

It seems like everyday we are hearing about yet another major company being hacked and our personal information getting exposed. It's frightening to think of all the harm that could come from a criminal using that information to wreck havoc on your finances. If you haven't done so already, putting a freeze on your credit is something that you should strongly consider. A credit freeze restricts companies from seeing your credit report which would prevent them from opening new accounts in your name. If you want to open a new account or apply for a loan you will have to call and have the credit freeze lifted to do so. This may seem like an inconvenience but it's definitely better than trying to clean up the financial mess that fraudulent activity creates.

To place a freeze on your credit you will have to contact the credit reporting agencies directly at the numbers below:

Equifax 800-349-9960

Experian 888-397-3742

TransUnion 888-909-8872

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Grab and Go Folder

With the recent hurricanes we thought it was a good time to send out a reminder about keeping an emergency folder with important details such as account numbers and passwords. We like to call this your "Grab and Go folder". Here is a list of information you should have in the folder.

  • Assets: checking and investment accounts, private business interests, location of safety deposit boxes, annuities, individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s, trust agreements, real estate, vehicles, collectibles 
  • Liabilities: credit cards, mortgages, car payments, cell phone bills, other recurring bills
  • Social media/online accounts: passwords and login information for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Netflix, Hulu, iCloud or other cloud storage accounts, online photo storage accounts 
  • Miscellaneous subscriptions/memberships: airline rewards programs, Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco memberships, toll tag accounts, magazines, newspapers 
  • Insurance: life insurance, long-term care, disability, home, auto 
  • Home maintenance: water, gas, electricity, telephone, alarm, lawn care, cable television, Internet service 
  • Medical: medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts 
  • Personal: burial/cremation preferences, funeral plans, pre-paid funeral expenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, Social Security card 
  • Key contacts: financial and legal advisors, doctors, family members, close friends

No one likes to think that something bad will happen to them but it's always good to be prepared in case it does.

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Equifax Cybersecurity Breach

Equifax has announced that they were hacked between May- July 2017. This is very scary because the personal information for millions of people has been exposed. This data includes all of your sensitive information such as; birth date, social security number, drivers license number, address, credit card numbers etc.

Equifax has a tool that lets you check to see if you may have been exposed to the hack and is offering a year of free credit monitoring through their Equifax TrustedID Premier Service for those who were.

Follow the link below to read all about the breach, see if you were affected and to sign up for the free credit monitoring.

https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

 ****UPDATE- Before signing up for the free credit monitoring service that Equifax is offering please read the fine print that goes along with the terms of agreement. You may be giving up your rights to a law suit if you take advantage of their offer.****

 

 

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Fake Check Scams

I came across an article about fake check scams and what to look out for if you receive an unexpected check in the mail. Unfortunately, these types of scams are happening more and more frequently. The following are some really good tips on what to do and what not do if you find yourself in this situation.

To avoid fake check scams, follow these tips:

Don’t “keep the change”- No legitimate company will overpay you and ask that you wire the difference back to the company or to some third party. Be extremely wary of any offer-in any context- to accept a check or money order in an amount greater than you are owed.

Don’t cash the “unexpected” check- Companies rarely if ever send checks that don’t include some explanation of why the check was issued. Unless you are expecting the check- and you are absolutely certain it is meant for you- do not cash it.

Call the company directly to verify the check- Remember that some fake checks will have a legitimate company’s actual account number with the correct bank routing number. Call the company directly to verify the check, using a telephone number you obtain on your own from directory assistance. Do not use any telephone number that appears on the check or any instructions you receive.

Know the hallmarks of fraud- Fake check scams typically have a number of red flags, such as:

-Typos: Watch out for online postings or emails that are riddled with typos and poor grammar.

-Mismatched names: Compare the name of the person or company posting the opportunity with the name on the check you receive- and beware if they don’t match.

Pressure to act quickly- Be aware that it can take 10 days or even more for your bank to determine that a check is a counterfeit. Don’t wire or transfer funds until you have verified with your bank that the check has cleared- even if the bank allows you to withdraw the money sooner.

If you do receive a suspicious check, contact one or more of the following organizations right away: local police, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center), or the U.S. Postal Inspections Service (if the check arrived by U.S. mail).

Source: Compliance E-News, May 31, 2017, Published by The Consortium®

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Identity Protection Update

In February I posted blog about websites that exposed your personal information and how to opt-out of them. I have recently been alerted to a few new ones I wanted to make you aware of so you can make sure your sensitive information isn't out there for identity thieves to grab. I have listed the webisites below. As I mentioned in my previous blog these websites do have an opt-out option. It only takes a couple minutes to visit these sites to protect yourself.

Truepeoplesearch.com

Stalkscan.com

Aboutthedata.com

If you missed my original blog on this subject you can read it here https://www.assetplanninginc.com/new-blog/entry/protect-your-information-on-the-internet

Have a great weekend!

Melani             

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Reasons Why People Put Off Saving for Retirement

Retiring comfortably is a dream for most people. Unfortunately a lot of people are not adequately saving for their retirement or, even scarier; they are not saving at all. What is preventing them from saving? Usually it’s a mind block that gets in the way. Retirement seems too far off to think of or it’s uncomfortable to talk about. Here are a few reasons that most people delay saving and some tips to overcome these excuses.

Paying off debt and paying for current living expenses - With a lot of people burdened with a mound of student debt after college and paying for current living expenses, the idea of putting anything extra towards retirement savings can seem daunting. While it is important to pay off your debt it is also important to save for your future. Even the smallest amount that you can spare is better than nothing at all.

Instant Gratification- Spending money on items or trips that you want to go on now is highly more satisfying then putting money into a retirement account that you can’t touch for a long time. Sure everyone loves a new purse or a shiny new set of golf clubs. But one thing to ask yourself; are these items worth my future financial security?

Unsure of where to start- A big reason people put off saving for retirement is that they do not know how to get started. There are also many online resources that offer retirement calculators and tips to guide you through the process. You can also contact a financial advisor to help you assess your retirement needs and set up a customized plan to get you started on the right track to a successful retirement.

Procrastination- The mindset of “I’ll do it tomorrow” and then never actually doing it can be one of the biggest disadvantages off all to your retirement savings. Most people do not understand the concept of compounding interest when it comes to savings. Basically, the sooner you start saving, your principal will not only earn interest but over time you’ll earn interest on top of previous years interest and therefore the compounding effect can be huge. If you put off starting to save until you are in your 30s instead of starting in your 20s your money will miss a decade of compounding. The end result is you will have to save significantly more money every month to get to your desired retirement goals then if you had started earlier. The easiest way to get started is through your company if they offer a 401k plan or by setting up an IRA account. With both of these options you can have contributions set up to automatically come out of your paycheck or account. The less you have to think about it the more likely it is that you will do it.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of excuses that people make as to why they can’t save for retirement. The sooner you get started, no matter how much you start with, the better. When you get ready to retire you will not regret taking those first steps you made to invest in yourself and your future.

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Steps Wells Fargo Customers Should Take to Protect Themselves

 

The shocking news that Wells Fargo employees opened 1.5 million unauthorized accounts and 565,000 credit cards has caused concern for Wells Fargo customers everywhere. Wells Fargo has said that they will be contacting customers who they feel may have had accounts wrongfully opened and invite their customers to come into a branch to do a review with a banker. We feel however that it is good to be proactive and instead of waiting for a call, do a little research on your own to protect yourself. Here are some steps you should take if you are worried that you may be a victim of fraudulent activity.

Check your accounts- Look at your Wells Fargo online account, call Wells Fargo or go into a branch to review any accounts in your name. Make sure that you authorized any accounts that were opened in your name. Also, look through each account for any unusual fees or unauthorized money transfers. Wells Fargo has been accused of charging illegal fees on student loans as well as making unauthorized money transfers between accounts that may have caused insufficient funds charges.

Check your credit report- If you haven’t checked your credit report recently you should check it now. You can get a free credit report every year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ Look for any unauthorized accounts opened in your name or any unauthorized credit inquiries made by Wells Fargo. If a credit card was opened without your knowledge and there were fees that you were unaware of and were unpaid those may also have been reported to the credit agencies. If you find any discrepancies contact Wells Fargo immediately as well as the credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax) to dispute the fraudulent activity and have it removed from your report.

If you are unable to have the issue resolved through the bank or credit agencies you can also submit a claim with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau by calling 855-411-2372 or online @ http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ .

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Privacy Notices

 

We’ve all gotten them, those privacy notices from your financial institutions that you get in the mail or receive electronically. Usually they are mailed out once a year or you receive one when you open a new account. Let’s be honest, most of us do not take the time to actually read them and they end up being filed away and forgotten about. Well we recently came across an article on My Money Blog that pointed out exactly what those companies are sharing about you and why it’s important for you to take the time to opt-out if you do not want your personal information shared with other companies.

Here is an example of a privacy notice:

Privacy Notice

The information that they share includes:

  • Social Security number
  • How much you make (Income)
  • How much money you have (Balances)
  • What you buy (Transaction history)
  • How much you borrow (Credit and payment history)

The amount of sharing varies widely:

  • For our affiliates to market to you = We can share with companies who are under the same ownership or control.
  • For non-affiliates to market to you = We can sell your information to anyone! They don’t even have to be financially-related companies.

Most of us are busy with our everyday lives and won’t take the time to opt-out and this is what the financial institutions are counting on. If you are tired of receiving unsolicited offers for credit cards or other services and are worried about your personal information being shared it only takes a small effort to contact your financial institution and opt-out. Most of these privacy notices can be found online when you log in to your account or you can call the company directly. Just imagine the amount of trees you will be saving when you stop getting 5 unwanted credit card offers in the mail a day. Not to mention the peace of mind you will have knowing that your information is not being sold.

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Mobile Banking Security Tips

 

Mobile Banking Security Tips     

Whether using your phone or a tablet, mobile banking is a wonderful tool that gives you access to your financial world with a touch of a button. Almost all banks and credit cards now have apps that allow you to access your account information, make deposits, complete transfers and make payments directly from your smartphone. While we love the convenience of mobile banking it can also be a way for a thief to obtain your personal information if you are not careful. Here are a few tips to keep you secure while enjoying all of the convenience that mobile banking offers.

  1. Always download banking apps directly from the banks website or the app store.
  2. Never download banking apps on “jailbroken” phones. Phones that have been “jailbroken” or modified no longer have the operating system’s security in effect and are more likely to be hacked.
  3. Always secure your phone with a strong passcode and enable the auto-lock feature in case your phone is lost or stolen.
  4. Never use public Wi-Fi when logging into the app. That is a common way for hackers to get your personal information.
  5. Never respond to a text or email requesting your banking/login information. A real bank will never send a request for this info.
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Tips to Avoiding Credit Card Fraud While Traveling Abroad

 

We came across an article this morning on Marketwatch.com by Maria Lamagna that had some great tips on preventing credit card fraud while you are traveling abroad. We thought we would pass them on to you…

Bring some cash with you on your trip. Make a visit to your local bank before your trip to convert your cash into the foreign currency or you can convert it at the airport upon your arrival.

If you must use an ATM, it is better to use one at a bank than on the street or another non-financial institution. Examine the ATM before using it for any abnormalities. If the card reader appears not to fit, has glue on it or it is chipped it may be a “skimmer”.

Use credit cards instead of debit cards. Credit cards usually have built in protection for fraud and the credit card company can dispute the charges for you. With a debit card, cash is immediately withdrawn from your account and it can take longer for the funds to be returned to you.

Use mobile payments when you can. Transactions with services like Apple Pay use a tokenization method when making payments. This means that a new token is issued for each transaction instead of transmitting the actual credit card number making the payment more secure.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi as much as possible. Although it may be tempting to log in at the local café to save on data use it is very dangerous and an easy way for hackers to get your personal information. You should also change your password before and after traveling.

Check your account activity often. Look out for any transactions that look out of the norm so you can catch any fraudulent activity quickly. Many banks and credit cards now offer monitoring alerts that you can customize and be notified when an unusual transaction occurs.

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New Trends in Credit Card Fraud

 

In a recent article released by AARP and written by Sid Kirchheimer, he writes about the new trends in credit card fraud. With the new chip-enabled EMV cards it is now harder for identity thieves to clone counterfeits of the existing plastic cards. Instead they are focusing on opening new fraudulent accounts with stolen Social Security numbers and other sensitive data. Javelin Strategy & Research reported in its 2016 Identity Fraud Study that new-account fraud more than doubled in 2015 from the previous year.

Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself:

1.Get a credit freeze. Once enacted, a credit (also known as a security) freeze restricts access to your credit report, which creditors check before issuing new financial or service accounts in your name. Without seeing your report, creditors won’t approve accounts to ID thieves posing as you. A freeze must be placed with each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus — typically free for those 65 and older (state laws vary) — and can be unthawed when you are legitimately applying for credit.

2.Secure mobile devices. If your financial life is on a smartphone or tablet, apply software updates that patch known vulnerabilities as soon as they become available. Use security features built into Android and iOS devices, such as passcode or biometric (fingerprint) protection, and programs that encrypt data and remotely wipe contents if the device is lost or stolen.

3.Use strong passwords. They “remain the de facto first line of defense for most online accounts, which has motivated criminals to compromise them whenever possible,” Javelin notes. Using a password manager is a convenient way to maintain good password practices without resorting to writing these codes down, which could also place them at risk of physical compromise.

4. Sign up for account alerts. Offered by banks, credit card issuers and brokerages, these free notifications, via email or text message, provide you with real-time alerts of suspicious activity. When fraud occurs, contact the account issuer immediately.

5.Take data breach notifications seriously. One in 5 data-breach victims suffered fraud in 2015, up from 1 in 7 in 2014. While data breaches at retailers remain an issue, the biggest jump in breaches was at government agencies and health care organizations, with a 64 percent rise in exposure of SSNs.

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Account Security

TD Ameritrade issued an alert today that they have seen an uptick in fraudulent account disbursement requests. So far, Asset Planning clients have not experienced any account fraud as we are diligent in verifying that requests for money come from our actual clients.

One tip that TD Ameritrade suggested was having a code word with our clients to verify the authenticity of a request. Please feel free to reach out to us if you would like to implement this extra precaution. 

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Identity Theft and Fraud: How can I protect myself?

Last week, Home Depot became one of a growing number of retailers to have their systems hacked and customer data stolen. This has become a widespread problem for a growing number of retailers. Unfortunately, this is probably not the last retailer to have their system hacked to gain access to customer information. The real question is how do you protect yourself?  

There are a number of protection services that will alert you when there is possible fraud or when there are changes to your credit reports. Each provider offers multiple levels of protection from basic alerts to more in depth monitoring. Below is a link to a comparison of the highest rated identity theft protection services. Please note that this is just one review site and other sites may have different rankings.

http://www.reviews.com/identity-theft-protection-services/compare/

If you feel an identity theft protection service is not right for you, there are things you can do to protect your identity on your own. It is important to check your credit card and checking accounts on a regular basis to verify there is no fraudulent activity. It is also important to check your credit report at least once a year.   AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to get a copy of your credit reports for free. There are some websites available that will allow you to check your credit score and monitor your credit activity. Some of them include:

www.creditkarma.com

www.quizzle.com

www.creditsesame.com

If you find that you have been a victim of identity theft, you will need to take some steps to protect yourself, your assets, and your credit score. The first thing you will need to do is contact your bank and credit card companies so that they can monitor your accounts more closely for fraudulent activity. They may also give you a new account number if your account has been compromised. The next person to call if your financial advisor or brokerage firm to let them know. They can be extra eyes looking for transfer requests or suspicious activity. You will also need to check and monitor your credit report to watch for any new accounts being opened or any other unusual activity.

Emails are hacked as well, and in order to protect you Asset Planning, Inc. will no longer send out money requested by email. If you do send us an email, we will call you or request to see you in person to verify that you are the one actually requesting the funds.

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